(Photo of Fritz Keller from Silver City Stagelines website)

New Kootenay-to-Kelowna bus line ready to roll

Silver City Stagelines was approved as the new connector service effective Oct. 30

Fritz Keller of Silver City Stagelines – or “fritztravels.com” – is ready to hit the highway today (Tuesday Oct. 30) in his first official run as the new Kootenay-to-Kelowna bus connector.

Story here: Trail bus line readies to takeover Kelowna run

Story here: Who will fill the Greyhound void in the Kootenays?

“People are booked for Tuesday, Wednesday and then the following day,” Keller told the Trail Times. “So that’s really encouraging. And we’ve had good responses about leaving early and arriving in Kelowna at noon.”

Keller is well-seasoned on passenger expectations in terms of departure and arrival times for his Sunday to Friday service, because he drove the inter-city Greyhound line from Trail to Castlegar for years.

His passengers were mostly seniors and customer service was always the more traditional one-phone-call-away.

So Keller’s greatest hurdle in taking over the west-bound connector from Greyhound Canada was getting an online booking site up and running. A dedicated website was also a requirement when he was approved for service by the BC Passenger Transportation Board last month.

The site for booking on Silver City Stagelines – fritztravels.com – is now up and from here on, all seats must be reserved through the website.

“The biggest struggle for us was to get our website out there,” Keller said. “There is a lot of support and people are really excited that we stepped up to do this, but right now they can’t find us. So hopefully by this week, when someone Googles ‘bus to Kelowna’ from Trail or Nelson, it should pop up with links to our website. So that will be very helpful.”

And, whether the passenger is departing from Trail, Castlegar or Nelson, all seats cost $75 one-way ($71.43 plus taxes).

Because Silver City Stagelines is a small company, it cannot offer special seat prices through advance booking, or special rates for seniors and students like Greyhound Canada did.

However, the price is actually $3 less than what Greyhound had charged regular customers, says Keller.

“We looked at everything and had to come up with one price,” he explained. “Seniors will pay a little more because we don’t offer a senior rate. But I’ve followed up with a good number of bookings from the last two weeks.”

Keller called all his customers who booked through the website just to find out about their online experience.

“We still have to make a little bit of adjustments,” he said. “But I talked with everybody and no one said anything about the price, and seniors said everything was great now.”

The 14-passenger bus will leave Nelson at 6:30 a.m. and arrive back at 6:30 p.m.

The only day with no service is Saturday. Every other day the bus will arrive in Kelowna at Orchard Park Mall by noon and head back to the Kootenays at 1 p.m.

Passengers in Trail, Castlegar and Nelson will be picked up from the A&W restaurant in those cities. Stops for gas and leg-stretches are scheduled at gas stations from Grand Forks to Rock Creek.

“The main reason I applied to do this was for my senior population,” Keller said. “But I would love to get more people who can see it’s actually pretty reasonable and they don’t have to drive to on their own. We’ll be in Kelowna by noon, so they’ll have the whole afternoon for appointments or whatever else. Hopefully with the good times (schedule) we can get more passengers on board.”

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